Thursday, 18 February 2010

SeeSaw Saw You Wanting TV

News comes in that yet another online TV aggregator has launched.

SeeSaw aims to provide a vast array of TV back catalogues to British viewers, thus filling gaps that the big players like YouTube and Hulu either don't fill, or in the case of the latter, don't yet provide, as Hulu has still not launched in the UK.

The service is free for now, but intends to make some charge, probably for American imports, later in the year, according to a report in the Guardian. By focusing in its PR on shows like Skins, it's doubtless hoping to suck in a younger demographic. Admittedly, YouTube has started to offer full length shows too, so it will be interesting to see how the minnow fares with the shark.

The service is coming out of Beta in the week that YouTube celebrates its fifth birthday.

I was lucky enough to be working in Web TV back in 2000. Looking back, maybe I should have hung around and made my first million, instead of turning my back on it all and becoming a school teacher? On second thought, hell no, I love what I do. But it's certainly true that back in the day we had to encode video into a variety of formats (Quicktime, Windows Media Player, Real Player) at multiple bit rates, manually, for every video. Tedious as a definition couldn't even begin to describe how dull and time consuming that process was!

YouTube's trick was to jump on the Adobe Flash bandwagon, right at the time when Flash become capable of embedding video into its framework, making it a lot easier to embed video across the Web.

It's interesting also to notice the spat that's emerged this week surrounding Adobe's alleged attempts to block the development of HTML5, the new web browser standard which, inter alia, will allow video streaming and 2D graphics within the frame itself. For Adobe, purveyors of Flash, this is a potential disaster; not least because it means all those iPhone users around the world will no longer be barred from watching funky animations as part of their web experience.

What does this mean in the bigger picture? Basically, the delivery mechanisms are moving towards becoming truly platform agnostic, and this might force us back to the concept that content is indeed King, and it will be those who can create narratives for interactive platforms who will succeed.

To see evidence that this where we're heading take a look at the American Beta Google have been running with Living Stories, in which its partnered with The New York Times and Washington Post. Longer running stories are contextualized and re-presented for readers. From Google's viewpoint this enhancement of the user experience might provide more revenue opportunities, in terms of users staying on pages longer (good for advertisers) and content deals with publishers (they acquire an audience online that they're losing in print).

In other words, what we want is meaningful information, and what media institutions need are new ways to connect to us. The landscape in which the two sides meet and interact is evolving rapidly, and those who put up barriers to that process happening any place, any time, on any platform, are deluding themselves that the process can be stopped.

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